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Atlanta police sending four-decade old ‘deteriorated DNA’ from child murders to private lab

The Atlanta Police Department is sending “deteriorated DNA” from the Atlanta Child Murders that happened four decades ago to a private lab in Salt Lake City with the hope of identifying a suspect in the slayings. 

It comes after Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former Police Chief Erika Shields announced a new push in 2019 to re-examine evidence in the 29 murders of Black children and young adults between 1979 and 1981. 

“Considering the emergence of new science and technology related to DNA testing, the Atlanta Police Department realized an opportunity to re-evaluate evidence from the Atlanta Child Murders case,” the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement on Monday. “We identified a private lab in Salt Lake City, Utah, that specializes in analyzing deteriorated DNA.”

At least 29 Black children and young adults, pictured here, were murdered in Atlanta between 1979 and 1981. 
(Getty Images)

Wayne Williams, 63, has long been considered the main suspect in the murders. 

He was convicted in the deaths of two young adults in 1982 who were believed to be among the 29 victims, and prosecutors offered evidence at the trial of 10 other murders that he was suspected in. 

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Williams was given two life sentences in 1982 and has maintained his innocence, but multiple attempts at appeal have been denied. 

Bottoms said this week that investigators are traveling to Salt Lake City to hand-deliver the DNA evidence themselves. 

“It is my sincere hope that there will be concrete answers for the families,” she tweeted. 

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New technology for DNA testing has solved decades-old cold cases in recent years, such as an 84-year-old Wisconsin man who was given consecutive life sentences in August for a 1976 double homicide; the recent identification of a suspect in the 1989 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Las Vegas; and the solving this month of a 17-year-old Iowa girl’s murder five decades ago. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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